NEW DELHI: Why has the Indian team management, and by extension some board officials and ex-players, been so diffident about the pollution issue in Delhi? By extension, what is it that makes us, as citizens, defensive when our poor civic sense is under the spotlight?
Apart from players and coaches, many spectators at the Kotla too have ridiculed the Lankans for deciding to wear masks on the field of play. The usual reaction from all these parties is that by wearing masks, the Lankans are “giving India a bad name”, or “acting”, or “over-reacting”.
If the insinuation is that the Lankans indulged in gamesmanship using pollution as an issue, isn’t the dismissive response to pollution in the other camp equally reprehensible?
And will India pacer Mohammad Shami, who threw up late in the day while bowling, now have second thoughts about his comment the other day about the Lankans play-acting a bit?
During the morning session on Monday, after play began in smoggy conditions with floodlights on, the Lankans again came out wearing masks, with only the wicketkeeper and the bowler taking them off when the ball was in play. Their new-ball bowler Suranga Lakmal seemed in immediate discomfort, vomiting on the field of play, going off the field and coming back in a few minutes.
When Lakmal started vomiting, the real-time Air Quality Index (AQI) near the Ferozeshah Kotla was 276, classified as “very unhealthy”.
The Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) said it had called in a critical-care specialist from AIIMS, who claimed to have checked on three Lankan players – Dickwella, Sandakan and Dhananjaya De Silva – at lunch in the nets area, after getting permission from the match referee.
Their lung-function tests, pulse and heart rate were found to be normal. The others, including Lakmal, didn’t undergo the test. “There were some vide in the two camps, in spite of Angelo Mathews insisting otherwise.
The real question then may not be to what extent they were affected by the Delhi air, but whether the Indian cricket board is taking proper care of its most valuable asset, the players, by asking them to play in such conditions. tests done, I have no idea what those tests were, why they were testing. I’m not a doctor but I know the issues (effects of pollution) are not gonna go away by these tests,” Lankan coach Nick Pothas said. “Whether the risk is too high to continue playing is not a call we can make, or tried to make. That’s up to the officials.”
The tendency has been to play down the fact that the Lankans may simply not be used to such alarming levels of air pollution. However, following Shami’s discomfiture, Shikhar Dhawan appeared to tone down the attack a bit. “It could be they are not used to this. Sri Lanka has beaches, less pollution. Hamara karm hai khelna (it is our duty to play on). When crops are cut in other states, it causes problems at this time of year. Not all of us in the team are from Delhi either,” he said.
Interestingly, some of the reserve Indian cricketers too wore masks on the first two days, but haven’t since. Clearly the issue has stirred up a di-The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has hauled up the Delhi government for hosting the Test at this time of the year. Dr KK Agarwal, president of the Indian Media Association, has said, “Players from other countries will not be able to breathe in the current situation. Our players might be accustomed to it, but they still should not be exposed to such air quality.”
At least one BCCI official has gone on record as suggesting matches may not be held in Delhi at this time of year in future, so that’s one lesson learnt. Amitabh Chowdhury told mediapersons here that “the point about scheduling matches in Delhi can be considered”.